ESL Week makes me think about a particular student. Her first day is still crystal clear in my memory. Nervous, shy and just plain scared, she chose to say, “No English” mostly with gestures. I must have been blind as I did not see the butterfly about to emerge from that cocoon in a few months’ time. About six months later, one day, I made an announcement in class about the ESL week contest. Collectively, the class groaned, “No!”
In my experience, a yes becomes so much better when it begins as a no. 🙂
We then started playing with the contest idea. A scaffolded version of the ESL week guidelines became a reading comprehension task. We brainstormed ideas through a speaking lesson on the topic. She came up with a few different movie (video) concepts. The voice inside my head nervously said, “How are you going to help her? Do you know ANYTHING about editing?” But I did not interrupt her vision. We moved on to writing the story board for her idea. In the days that followed, she Continue reading →
I recently decided to take an educational workshop on Mental Health in Schools offered by our school board. While it was not directly related to Adult ESL, I felt it would enhance my learning and better equip me to understand adults with similar problems.
There was quite a mix of participants: TAs, and both elementary and high school teachers. At the second session, a young woman asked if the seat was taken at the table where I was sitting by myself, and I invited her to join me. She looked familiar, and I inquired as to whether we had taken a workshop together before, or if she had attended one of the P.D. Days at TESL Ottawa. I was naturally assuming she was a teacher. She then said she knew who I was by Continue reading →
As another school year is almost at a close, it is time for end-of-year reflections – for both students and teachers alike.
At the beginning of each school year, my students set goals for their language learning. They begin by assessing where they see their strengths and weaknesses, then selecting one or two specific areas to focus on, e.g., “Figuring out new vocabulary I read”, or “Organizing my writing more clearly”. They then make a plan of action – what specific strategies they will use to help them reach their goals, as well as what support they would like from me as their teacher and from their families at home. Mid-year we do a ‘where we are now’ check-in, which involves Continue reading →
Another year has ended in my journey as an ESL teacher. As I look back, I realize the roller coaster ride it was.
When I started in September, I had two students in a higher, multi-level LINC class. On the first day, only one showed up. On the second, the other student was there, but the one from the first day wasn’t there. Let’s just say that on both days we spent a lot of time getting to know each other.
I have been working on my TESL certification for the past few years through part-time online learning. For my practicum, I recently had the opportunity to observe and teach in a level four EAP class. Writing this blog post has posed an opportunity for me to reflect on the practicum experience and comment on the foremost challenge I faced when moving from TESL student to TESL teacher: balancing the theory learned in the TESL classroom and the realities of the classroom to provide students with the best possible learning environment.
The Perfect Lesson Plan vs. The Clock
Since I have taught in the college classroom before, I was already aware of the challenges of time. Instructors are responsible for following a rigid course outline and syllabus, regardless of the specific needs of the class. However, I felt that this was an even greater challenge in the ESL classroom.
ESL students need ample opportunity for practice in order to master language use, and this practice requires Continue reading →
I went to my last class this past Friday expecting my entire class to be present. Well, of the 13 who normally attend, only 5 showed up! I didn’t know how to feel about this. But no matter, I carried on with the lesson. To stay positive, I thought it was great that I could focus more on each individual. We had a lot of fun despite the lack of attendance that day.
The feeling in the room was certainly bittersweet. On one hand, I was happy to have my Fridays back to spend with my little girl, but on the other hand, it was kind of hard for me to leave these special individuals, whom I’ve come to respect and appreciate so much throughout the course of the past seven weeks.
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” —John Dewey
I love this quote. It’s so simple but, at its core, it embodies the vastness of what it means to be “educated”. In its essence, education is so much more than desks or books or technology.
As the Winter/Spring term of my EAP classes at CultureWorks dashes to the finish line, I reflect on the ‘tidbits’ of wisdom that my students have imparted unto me. I “teach” mostly young adults mostly, from many parts of the globe. To be honest, teaching to an international audience is only part of what I do. The bulk of my days are spent amassing an “education”.
My vocation is unique in that it inspires an environment of ‘give and take’, conducive to the search for truth. Although there are countless aspects of my career that are fulfilling, I am most grateful that it allows me to be a lifelong learner, where the students are the teachers.
I’d like to share a couple of “truths” fashioned by two of my students recently.
Truth #1: Experiencing life requires a good sense of humour.
We’re human. We make mistakes. Foreign students like Lu will naturally commit a faux pas of the “cultural” kind. A simple task such as grocery shopping can prove to be incredibly confusing. For example, grocery carts in this city come in a few different sizes–small, large, and motorized. Generally speaking, loading a small or large grocery cart with newly purchased edible goodies out to the parking lot will attract little, if any, attention; however, climbing Continue reading →
Most EFL teachers savour a ‘teachable moment’ where, by plan or serendipity, some magic happens. Let me tell you a story about one of mine.
During the 7 years I taught in the Middle East, all teachers lamented the prevalence of mobile phones in the classroom. Sometimes, even, multiple phones during exams had to be removed from students under the protests of “We’re just sharing teacher….honest…..just sharing.”
Phones were a problem. And as so often happens, problems are the source of an inspiration. One day I got all 24 of my 17-19 year old male students around in a circle of desks and got them to explain to me, in English of course, all the features of their many varieties of mobiles or cells. All the new terms and features were written Continue reading →
Today wasn’t a great day in my EAP class. It was very definitely Monday and more than one student had spent the weekend battling non-stop computer games; World of Warcraft is apparently an indefatigable foe.
And, something had convinced my students that grammar class was the best time to catch up on lost sleep. Nothing was going to keep them from their rest, not even the most fascinating facts about the present progressive tense. So, I opened my bag of teacher tricks in hopes that I could lure them from Mr. Sandman. If they engaged, we could all go home content at the end of the day.
I had them write on chalk boards, scribble on the white board, role play, and question each other with today’s vocab. I commiserated over the Raptors’ loss, arranged Continue reading →
The TESOL International Convention is happening in my own backyard, and I can’t participate as I am working in Qatar. I hope that my fellow TESL Ontario professionals have the ability to attend and participate in the massive spectacle that is the annual TESOL Convention.
I have had the good fortune to attend three conferences in person and a few more online. My favourite part of the conference, after the professional and personal networking, is the Computer-Assisted Language Learning Interest Section (CALL-IS) TESOL Electronic Village. It is a place where one can Continue reading →